Lu­cas to Col­bert: Why aren’t you re­plac­ing Ste­wart?


Stephen Col­bert came to the Tribeca Film Fes­ti­val to in­ter­view film­maker Ge­orge Lu­cas, but the Star Wars cre­ator had a ques­tion of his own.

“The per­fect choice to re­place that Jon Ste­wart fel­low would have been you,” Lu­cas told Col­bert on Fri­day. Why, he wanted to know, wasn’t he re­plac­ing him?

Col­bert, who re­places David Let­ter­man in Septem­ber as host of “The Late Show” on CBS, tried to ex­plain.

“Trevor Noah is a very funny guy,” he said of Ste­wart’s re­cently named re­place­ment.

More­over, he said, “I don’t want to be the guy to take over from Jon Ste­wart. I worked for Jon Ste­wart at that show, and my mem­o­ries will al­ways be of him be­ing the keen­est, most in­tel­li­gent, most beau­ti­fully de­con­struc­tive mind ... And I would never, how­ever suc­cess­ful I’d be, get out of his shadow.”

Lu­cas then sug­gested that Col­bert wouldn’t need to get out from Ste­wart’s shadow; he could sim­ply “start jump­ing on his body and shout­ing, ‘I won! I won!’” “I’ll try that,” Col­bert quipped. The hour- long in­ter­view fo­cused mostly on Lu­cas, how­ever, and Col­bert, sport­ing an am­ple white beard to match that of Lu­cas and ap­pear­ing as him­self, not as his re­tired “Col­bert Re­port” pun­dit, made clear that he’s a huge fan.

At age 13, he said, his world changed when he saw the first Star Wars with friends, hav­ing won four tick­ets in a ra­dio sta­tion con­test in Charleston, South Carolina.

“We had no idea what it was go­ing to be,” he said.

And then the mu­sic be­gan, and the movie’s open­ing scroll ap­peared and ev­ery­thing was dif­fer­ent.

“We couldn’t ex­plain to any­one how the world was dif­fer­ent now,” Col­bert told Lu­cas. “We had no vo­cab­u­lary for what you showed us.”

He says he still keeps a but­ton from that screen­ing, say­ing, “May the Force Be With You.”

The two men didn’t speak much about the much- an­tic­i­pated new Star Wars tril­ogy, di­rected by J. J. Abrams, with the first in­stall­ment, “Star Wars: The Force Awak­ens,” open­ing in De­cem­ber. Lu­cas, who sold the fran­chise and his Lu­cas­film to Dis­ney in 2012 for US$ 4.05 bil­lion, said he doesn’t know what the film’s plot will be but looks for­ward to see­ing it.

“The one thing I re­gret about hav­ing made Star Wars is that I never got to just go and see it,” he said.

“I hope it’s suc­cess­ful,” he said. “I hope they do a great job.”

He added that the orig­i­nal saga was about a fa­ther, chil­dren and grand­chil­dren.

“I’m hop­ing they take it in a dif­fer­ent di­rec­tion,” he said. “I have no idea what they’re do­ing.”

Lu­cas said one thing is sure: He’ll wait to see the movie on a big screen. Asked by Col­bert how he feels about peo­ple watch­ing movies on their phones, he said it didn’t anger him as much as it does some other film­mak­ers.

“They work best on a big screen,” he said. “If you want to see it on a cell­phone, that’s fine with me, but it won’t be the full ex­pe­ri­ence.”

Lu­cas spoke about the his­tory of his big­gest hits, start­ing with the 1973 “Amer­i­can Graf­fiti.” Stu­dio ex­ec­u­tives didn’t like “Graf­fiti” at all at first, he said, and it ended up be­ing enor­mously suc­cess­ful: It was made for US$ 700,000, he noted, and earned US$ 100 mil­lion.

With Star Wars, there were sim­i­lar trep­i­da­tions. Show­ing it to a group of fa­mous film­maker friends, no one liked it and ba­si­cally said, “Poor Ge­orge,” he re­counted — ex­cept Steven Spiel­berg, who im­me­di­ately de­clared it was go­ing to be huge.

“And ev­ery­one just said, ‘ Poor Steven,’” Lu­cas quipped.

When it opened in 1977, the direc­tor went off to Hawaii to lie on a beach, want­ing to es­cape the stress. That first week­end, he got a call to turn on the TV; Wal­ter Cronkite was on, de­scrib­ing how the film had be­come a phe­nom­e­non.

“It’s the first time I un­der­stood this was go­ing to be a hit,” Lu­cas said.

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